Regarding articles in the local media concerning Lake Forest’s efforts to lobby for an Amtrak Stop, it seems the City paid $192,000 to a Washington D.C. lobbying firm without council approval. The longtime Lake Forest City Manager Bob Kiely had approved the payments without City Council knowledge. Kiely said the previous Lake Forest mayor knew of the lobbying effort, as did the current mayor. The City of Lake Forest Council was concerned and hired a special counsel to investigate the matter.
In a DailyNorthShore story dated February 21, 2018 reporter Steve Sadin summarized the 11- page report generated by special counsel Leigh Jeter during the City Council meeting.
Jeter read her report aloud to the council, Mayor Rob Lansing and a crowd of more than 100 people February 20, at City Hall. According to the report, there was no evidence any of the money paid resulted in financial gain to Kiely, Lansing or former Mayor Donald Schoenheider. Jeter did determine Kiely violated city code provisions requiring him to get approval for the expenditures. However, Jeter stated, his actions were not intentional.
Jeter suggested though Schoenheider was out of office, the council should take necessary steps to ensure Lansing understands its expectation regarding communication with the council. The payments to the lobbying firm were not made directly by the city but through city attorney Victor Filippini. This furthered the ability of Kiely and Schoenheider to violate code provisions.
After Jeter’s report Kiely expressed regret at his actions and took the blame for the code violations. “I want to assure you and the community that this is not reflective of who I am or who we are as an organization”. Further, “I would like to underscore that my oversight should not reflect poorly on our finance department or other city employees.”
In an October 5, 2016 memorandum, Robert Grum, a Rockland Fire Protection District trustee, issued the following statement: “Please be advised that I received an e-mail from Bob Kiely yesterday advising me that the (Lake Forest) City Council has authorized him to begin discussions with Lake Bluff and RFPD. During these discussions, Lake Forest Fire Department employees will not be allowed to work for these entities as secondary employment. I have added an Executive Session to the agenda as I feel we need to discuss this personnel issue.”
The Lake Forest firefighters were told by their superior that they could not work for the City of Lake Forest and still work during off hours as volunteer fire fighters for the Knollwood or Lake Bluff Fire Departments. Eight firefighters, 7 from Knollwood Fire Department and 1 from the Lake Bluff Fire Department were forced to resign from their off-the-clock volunteer fire department positions to protect their livelihoods. The action placed the safety of residents of the Rockland Fire Protection District in serious jeopardy. The firemen forced to resign were among the most experienced and certified members of the department as well as long-established community residents.
The Knollwood Fire Department chief hired an attorney and a meeting was held with the mayor of Lake Forest and Bob Kiely. The matter was resolved behind closed doors. On October 21, 2016 a letter was sent to Bob Kiely by Karl Snoblin, President Rockland Fire Protection District, and Jonathan P. Harlow Fire Chief Knollwood Fire Department/Rockland Fire Protection District to Bob Kiely, Lake Forest City Manager. “Per our phone conversation, I am requesting the City of Lake Forest reinstate the City’s concurrence to permissibility of secondary employment with the Rockland Fire Protection District for the following City of Lake Forest full time employees….” Further, “I do understand and appreciate your concern that there be no inappropriate influence during the discussions. I can assure you that while the individuals we are requesting to be allowed to continue to be employed by the District are important to the operations of our Fire Department, they are not in a position to exert any influence on the decision making of the District’s board. I look forward to hearing from you soon and thank you for your time.”
Soon after the letter was received by Bob Kiely, all members forced to resign from the Knollwood Fire Department were able to reapply for secondary employment with the District.
It is not known whether the above documented actions on the part of Bob Kiely are reflective of who he is or the organization he represents. It is not known if Robert Grum worked as a volunteer agent for the City of Lake Forest under the direction of Bob Kiely. It is known at the time of Robert Grum’s involvement in the above documented situation, he was fully employed as Emergency Response Coordinator for Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center. He was also an appointed trustee to the Rockland Fire Protection District. Robert Grum was appointed to his position by Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor on the recommendation of County Board member Mike Rummel.
On December 13, 2017 the City of Lake Forest presented a proposal for an Intergovernmental agreement to provide full time professional fire, emergency medical and fire protection services to the Village of Lake Bluff. On January 31, the president, Village manager and a trustee of the Village of Lake Bluff met with the mayor, City Manager Bob Kiely and a council member from the City of Lake Forest to discuss Intergovernmental Agreements.
It was mentioned that the December 13th proposal provided no financial data on costs to the Village to implement. It appeared to be a take-it-or-else document. It is highly irregular for one government agency to submit a proposal for services to another government agency without a clearly mapped cost analysis and expect an immediate answer regarding that proposal.
Government is funded on the backs of the taxpayers and must be fully transparent in its spending and management operations. Every dollar must be accounted for in reporting.
It is not known whether the above documented actions on the part of Bob Kiely and the City of Lake Forest elected officials are reflective of who they are or the organization they represent. It is known that the Village of Lake Bluff cannot submit to the vague whims proposed by the City of Lake Forest, its Manager Bob Kiely and its elective officials.
Janice N. Schnobrich
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